WASHINGTON (AP) - CIA Director George Tenet, who weathered storms over intelligence lapses about suspected weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, has resigned, President Bush said Thursday.
"I will miss him," Bush said.
Tenet, 51, came to the White House to inform Bush about his decision Wednesday night. "He told me he was resigning for personal reasons," Bush said. "I told him I'm sorry he's leaving. He's done a superb job on behalf of the American people."
Tenet will serve until mid-July. Bush said that deputy, John McLaughlin, will temporarily lead America's premier intelligence agency until a successor is found. Among possible successors is House Intelligence Committee Chairman Porter Goss, R-Fla., a former CIA agent and McLaughlin.
"He's been a strong and able leader at the agency, and I will miss him," Bush said of Tenet as he got ready to board Marine One for a trip to Andrews Air Force Base, Md., and on to Europe.
"George Tenet is the kind of public servant you like to work with," the president added. "He's strong, he's resolute. He's served his nation as the director for seven years. He has been a strong and able leader at the agency. He's been a strong leader in the war on terror."
"I send my blessings to George and his family and look forward to working with him until he leaves the agency," Bush said.
Tenet had been under fire for months in connection with intelligence failures related to the U.S.-led war against Iraq, specifically assertions the United States made about Saddam Hussein's purported possession of weapons of mass destruction, and with respect to the threat from the al-Qaida terrorist network.
In May, a panel investigating the Sept. 11 attacks released statements harshly criticizing the CIA for failing to fully appreciate the threat posed by al-Qaida before the terrorist hijackings. Tenet told the panel the intelligence-gathering flaws exposed by the attacks will take five years to correct.
On Capitol Hill, House Speaker Dennis Hastert said, "He served his country a long time. History will tell what the implications of his tenure were."
"I think history will tell," the Illinois Republican said when asked how Tenet's performance would be judged. "It's too early to make that snap judgment."
Retired Adm. Stansfield Turner said he thought Tenet had been "pushed out and made a scapegoat."
"I don't think he would have pulled the plug on President Bush in an election cycle without having been told to do that," Turner, a former CIA director, told CNN.
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., called Tenet "an honorable and decent man who has served his country well in difficult times, and no one should make him a fall guy for anything."
As director of the CIA, Tenet drew one particularly unusual assignment: trying to ease tensions between Israel and the Palestinians. He tried to curb the violence and prompt talks on strengthening security arrangements. Like virtually all special U.S. mediators, his efforts had mixed results.
During his seven years at the CIA, speculation at times has swirled around whether Tenet would retire or be forced out, peaking after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 and surging again after the flawed intelligence estimates about Iraq's fighting capability.